Here are a few exercises to improve various aspects of the canter.
My trainer gets me to pick up canter, go large, then somewhere down the long side do a transition to trot, an immediate 10m circle in trot, canter immediately on meeting the track again, and to keep repeating this exercise. it’s hard work for both of you but it really works!
Another good one is: on a 20m circle, to do repeated walk – canter – trot – walk – canter – trot – walk etc etc transitions. A transition down or up from trot every 1/4 of a 20m circle is surprisingly hard to do really well. (Trot 1/4, canter 1/4, trot 1/2, canter 1/4)
Walk to canter (and eventually a good rein-back to canter) transitions are excellent for teaching a horse to ‘sit’ and giving the rider, in those first few really engaged upwards strides, a real inkling of what a good collected canter the horse is capable of!
Another exercise is to do a small canter circle and then move away in a more forward canter, then canter to the corner marker, do another small circle and then come back down the school in medium canter on the 3/4 line, back to working, and do another small circle back to the track. Each time you come out of the circle move the canter forward. This improves the impulsion and also the ‘sit’ in the canter.
Initially the circles may not be perfect, but it generates lots of energy, then when you go back to a working canter on a circle you have a lot better canter.
Don’t forget the value of shallow loops, contrabending, and counter canter as suppling exercises, too.
Lots to play with here!